793.94/9948: Telegram

The Ambassador in Japan (Grew) to the Secretary of State

354. Department’s 192, September 6.

My estimate of the bearing of the statments made in the addresses at the opening of the Diet upon the question of the existence of a state of war:
The addresses are liberally interspersed with phrases which reveal the determination of the Japanese Government to continue to exercise the use of armed forces until certain political objectives in China are achieved. Pertinent statements are those by the Prime Minister8 indicating determination by Japan to give a “decisive blow to China”, “to administer a thorough-going blow to the Chinese Army so that it may lose completely its will to fight”; by the Foreign Minister9 of the resort by Japan to “force of arms” and “calamitous hostilities”, and by the War [and?] Admiralty10 of the intention of the Japanese Army to crush the Chinese military forces. These statements, when read in the light of the fact that there are estimated to be at least 150,000 Japanese troops in China proper, leave no room for doubt that the Japanese Government has formally taken cognizance of the existence of a de facto state of war.
The address of the Minister of Finance indicates the existence of plans for a reorganization of Japan’s financial, commercial and industrial systems under war time control by the Government on a prolonged war basis.
Estimate of the probable reaction in Japan to the American Government putting into effect the initial provision or more of the neutrality resolution.

(a) Although the Japanese Government and the press and other agencies of public opinion might conceivably regard it as a mark of American disapproval of Japanese policy and action toward China especially in view of the fact that neither of the combatants has actually declared war, the predominant reaction would most probably be favorable. It would probably be regarded as evidence of the intention of the United States to make no exception in policy in a case arising in the Far East as contrasted with similar cases which might occur in other parts of the world. It would probably be regarded also as further manifestation of intention by the United States to refrain from intervention.

Estimate of effects upon Japan of such proclamation.

(a) I believe that the proclamation would not materially affect Japan from a practical point of view with the possible exception of the loss of supply of aircraft which are being imported from the United States as models for adaptation. If the war is prolonged the effect might be more serious.

Comments. It is the declared intention of the Japanese Government to avoid interference with peaceful commerce but the Government has indicated (see my 329, August 31, 2 p.m., and my 341, September 4, 1 p.m.11) that circumstances may compel resort to more drastic measures to prevent the supply of arms to China. I believe that even if such circumstances do not arise there is grave risk of action being taken by the Japanese naval forces whether intentional or otherwise which would constitute unlawful restriction of American sovereign rights. I believe that the prospects of continued American trade even “peaceful commerce” with China are being rapidly diminished by a number of factors such as the risks incident to hostilities, high war risk insurance, interruption of means of transportation in China, et cetera, and that the benefits to the United States resulting from continuously diminishing sale to China of arms and munitions are not commensurate with the risks involved.

In view of the desire of the American Government to reduce the chances of the United States becoming involved in the present hostilities I believe that action now is advisable.

  1. See telegram No. 343, September 5, noon, from the Ambassador in Japan, Foreign Relations, Japan, 1931–1941, vol. i, p. 367.
  2. For text, see ibid., p. 364.
  3. See telegram No. 347, September 5, 5 p.m., from the Ambassador in Japan, ibid., p. 368.
  4. Neither printed.